Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Stop and Smell the Roses

While they still have fragrance...

"Air pollution from power plants and automobiles is destroying the fragrance of flowers and thereby inhibiting the ability of pollinating insects to follow scent trails to their source, a new University of Virginia study indicates. This could partially explain why wild populations of some pollinators, particularly bees -- which need nectar for food -- are declining in several areas of the world, including California and the Netherlands."

Oh, just GREAT! We're already losing the trees, the fish, the walruses, and now the scent of flowers? On Sunday, after I read this, I decided to go to Cross Mansion to look for some. Formerly a private residence, it is now a park, next to Jockey Hollow of Revolutionary War fame. There weren't very many flowers, but I did find a few sweetly modest blossoms remained in the formal gardens.

Along the way I passed this monstrosity. I try not to be critical because it's impossible to live in this society without SOME carbon footprint, but surely there is a line and a house this ridiculously large must have crossed it!No matter how fancy your mansion is though, it won't save your trees. The poisonous gasses are quite democratic, there is no other atmosphere. We all share the same one.

And it has nothing to do with age! This young tree above is deader than the older ones.

I used to pass the gardens on my daily path and often stopped in. This section has lovely stonework and an arbor. That white oak above the wisteria is very old and its crown is extremely thin.

This allee of Japanese Andromeda once had a dense canopy of leaves but there is not much left now but spindly bare trunks.

This splendid huge silver maple has many bare branches. It is obviously very old but that is NOT the reason for the thinning and loss of foliage - such trees are genetically evolved to live for hundreds of years! In the foreground is a small replacement, caged against the deer. But the leaves on the young tree are damaged as well.This is called a twin leaf.I don't know all the names of the many groundcovers here, but looking at the foliage in an established garden such as this, that boasts a huge variety of plants and trees, is a useful exercise because it demonstrates quite conclusively and irrefutably that the symptoms of atmospheric poison are widespread amongst every conceivable species that needs to photosynthesize in order to survive.

These are the leaves of an Oriental lily.The Mountain Laurel has leaves that are yellow or just plain missing.The peony leaves go from scorched to flamed.Here in this perennial geranium is evident the loss of chlorophyll thanks to toxic greenhouse gasses.Phlox is no better.These conifers are pathetically thin, as is the pin oak by the house.The tower was once almost invisible behind evergreens but now there are stumps instead.

This is a cedar that should be blocking out all light.

Sassafras leaves fading from a lack of photosynthesis, and even worse:

"The scent molecules produced by flowers in a less polluted environment, such as in the 1800s, could travel for roughly 1,000 to 1,200 meters; but in today's polluted environment downwind of major cites, they may travel only 200 to 300 meters," said Jose D. Fuentes, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and a co-author of the study. "This makes it increasingly difficult for pollinators to locate the flowers."
The result, potentially, is a vicious cycle where pollinators struggle to find enough food to sustain their populations, and populations of flowering plants, in turn, do not get pollinated sufficiently to proliferate and diversify.
Other studies, as well as the actual experience of farmers, have shown that populations of bees, particularly bumblebees, and butterflies have declined greatly in recent years. Fuentes and his team of U.Va. researchers, including Quinn McFrederick and James Kathilankal, believe that air pollution, especially during the peak period of summer, may be a factor.
To investigate this, they created a mathematical model of how the scents of flowers travel with the wind. The scent molecules produced by flowers are very volatile and they quickly bond with pollutants such as ozone, hydroxyl and nitrate radicals, which destroy the aromas they produce. This means that instead of traveling intact for long distances with the wind, the scents are chemically altered and the flowers, in a sense, no longer smell like flowers. This forces pollinators to search farther and longer and possibly to rely more on sight and less on smell.
The scientists calculated scent levels and distances that scents can travel under different conditions, from relatively unpolluted pre-industrial revolution levels, to the conditions now existing in rural areas downwind from large cities.
"It quickly became apparent that air pollution destroys the aroma of flowers, by as much as 90 percent from periods before automobiles and heavy industry," Fuentes said. "And the more air pollution there is in a region, the greater the destruction of the flower scents."

link to the original story

When pine cones outnumber needles, that tree is in distress.

Here is a copper beech, it's deep leaves bleached to a sickly rust, because it cannot photosynthesize in the atmosphere we have sullied with our pollution.
Asters, and a young Japanese Andromeda, with damaged foliage.It seems most people have forgotten that pine trees are supposed to be green all the time.
This is native butterfly weed leaves and pods.This climbing hydrangea has a late, and stunted bloom, and leaves that range from chlorotic to fried.a Dahlia! The Dawn Redwood is fascinating. It has long dangling growths I have never seen before. On them are nascent cones, very tiny and curious.

Maidenhair fern is shriveled and brown.This home looks as though it has been foreclosed upon, and the occupant abandoned it!
I think this might be leaves of foxglove.The hollies are so bare. Only a few leaves remain, and they are thick with berries. This park used to be characterized by the most intense hedges of vibrant saturated green hollies, and other evergreens. and now it is reduced to stumps.This is a newly planted Japanese Andromeda, in no better condition that the old ones.These are dead flowers from the spring. When plants are poisoned, they can't properly develop and drop their seeds, fruits or nuts and leaves so sometimes they cling, brown and shriveled, and unable to reproduce.

The most painful part for me was to revisit this hydrangea. I still am not sure what variety it is, as it is not labeled, but for years I have paged through nursery catelogues and tried to figure it out and locate the same cultivar, to plant in my own garden. It has absolutely the most gigantic and splendid variegated panicals.

Now most of the flowers are brown.
This enormous example is almost 2 feet long, but still it doesn't have the rich variety of color I remember. The leaves spell doom.

Now this little sample, is what made my heart sing when I first saw it. The shadings of colors are so delicate, and rich.

Here, I just love this:

"Documents later showed that President George W. Bush had intervened personally on the level of smog protection for wildlife, farmlands, parks and open spaces."
from EPA Scraps Bush-era Smog Rule and mind you, the Rethugs, chief among them Murkowski and McInsane, are going to introduce amendments to prevent the EPA from doing its job, according to the NYT

Terrifyingly, the EPA is being pressured to allow HIGHER concentrations of ethanol in gasoline, which may or may not be largely responsible for the dying trees but is most definitely responsible for cancers, asthma, heart failure and emphysema, not to mention, in spite of its being marketed as "green energy," is dependent on petroleum for pesticides and fertilizers, production and transport! And of course it corrals land that could be used for food.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Gail,
    I've started a new blog at replacefossil.com. My first post is up tonight. I would be pleased if you would visit and leave a comment.

    I think it is important not to vote for any candidate who supports subsidies or mandates for ethanol. The evidence is clear that ethanol is not right for energy independence nor the environmet nor climate. The paper you posted for me even said that the benefits of reducing ethanol is better, faster and more long lasting than of reducing CO2.

    Is the DEP the New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection?


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